Monday, September 16, 2019

UK: The plane snobbery of environmentalists

A plan to disrupt flights at Heathrow Airport is part of an effort to make us ashamed of air travel.

Anti-flying activists are back. This Friday a group called Heathrow Pause plans to fly toy drones ‘at a maximum height of six feet, outside flight paths’ close to Heathrow Airport, forcing air traffic control to ground all flights. The point, so Heathrow Pause puts it, is not just to put a stop to government plans to expand Heathrow Airport, but also ‘to draw attention to the most serious and urgent crisis humanity has ever faced’.

But, as ever with greens, there seems to be another, deeper campaign being waged. A war against us, against our behaviour.

From the Reverend Thomas Malthus’s late 18th-century screeds against the proliferating poor and the dangers of Enlightenment thinking, to the Green Party’s origins among a disillusioned group of Conservative Party members in the 1970s, environmentalism has always been fuelled by a certain class prejudice. This is not tangential to the environmentalist worldview – it is central to it. That’s because its target has always been the errant behaviour of the ‘race of labourers’, as Malthus had it. Those who, if they’re not procreating far more than they should, are consuming more than they ought.

While on the global stage this takes the form of First World greens wringing their hands over the rapid industrialisation and rising appetites of the ‘races of labourers’ in hitherto underdeveloped nations, domestically it still coalesces around an attack on the material aspirations of the so-called lower classes. And in the UK, in recent years, this attack on people’s consumption habits has focused on one activity in particular: flying. Or, to be more precise, cheap flying. Hence as budget airlines like Ryannair or easyJet emerged during the 1990s, and prices to Malaga or Athens plummeted, so environmentalist campaigners took to the runways.

Plane Stupid, a gang of entitled hoorays and the most prominent of the anti-cheap-flight brigade, sweated snobbery in spite of its best deoderising efforts. Its self-righteous members just couldn’t help themselves. They talked disdainfully of ‘stag and hen nights to Eastern European destinations’, and complained that this new type of passenger had no interest in the ‘architecture or culture’ of Europe’s metropoles. The object of Plane Stupid’s attacks was never simply cheap flights — it was always the cheap, uncultured plebs doing the flying.

To be fair, Heathrow Pause is not as nakedly snobbish as its precursors. It is attacking the frequent business fliers of Heathrow rather than the leisure flyers of Stansted. And rather than mock those heading to Spain for some sun, it speaks in the grandiose language of Extinction Rebellion, invoking the climate emergency, much as would-be dictators call states of emergency in order to suspend civil liberty and justify all and any action necessary – in this case, disrupting the everyday lives of thousands upon thousands of air passengers. What’s more, it tries to paint this unfunny stunt as one in the eye for the rich, pointing out that flying is overwhelmingly concentrated among the wealthiest citizens, with 15 per cent of the UK population accounting for 70 per cent of flights.

That stat could be grounds for seeking to make air travel cheaper still, rather than further restricting it. But Heathrow Pause, like Plane Stupid before it, has no interest in expanding the freedom granted by airflight. Quite the opposite. Beneath the anti-rich posture, that age-old, aristocratic desire to restrict, reduce and ultimately change the material aspirations of the uppity masses persists. That’s why there is no interest in the air industry’s desire to decarbonise air travel. They don’t want a technological solution; they want a behavioural one.

Here we come to the purpose of the protest. Heathrow Pause ostensibly claims it wants to stop the expansion of Heathrow Airport, and force the government to honour parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency, complete with a pledge to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050. And no doubt Heathrow Pause does want that to happen. But the actual point, indeed the desired impact, of the drone display is not really to exert pressure on Westminster. It’s not even really about Heathrow. Rather, it is about flying in general. It wants to change people’s perception of flying – it wants to stigmatise it, turn it into a source of profound guilt, an object of shame.

Heathrow Pause does not go as far as the Guardian’s George Monbiot did in 1999, when he claimed transatlantic flights should be deemed as ‘unacceptable’ as child abuse. But it still draws on the same desire to demonise, to shame us into changing our ways, just as Malthus sought to paint the behaviour of the mass of 18th-century labourers as licentiously leading us towards our doom. Through its ‘symbolic act’, it wants us to associate all plane flight with planetary harm.

Hence Heathrow Pause activists, pursuing the trail blazed by anti-smoking activists, argue that too many of us consider flying to be a ‘normalised, even hypernormalised’ activity. They want to ‘denormalise’ flying. Which is another way of saying they want to stigmatise flying. They want us to experience and perceive catching a cheap flight to Spain as being as immoral as anti-smoking activists have made lighting up in a car full of kids. If they could, they would no doubt insist on a graphic image of environmental devastation on every plane ticket, alongside the reminder that ‘Flying Kills’.

But failing that, they will content themselves with merely making air travel just that little bit more exclusive again. For that is always the real effect of the green-branded war on consumption habits, from cheap meat to cheap flight: green taxes and price rises. They want air travel to become what it used to be. Something only a small, privileged minority can enjoy – guiltily but necessarily, as they fly to the latest Extinction Rebellion protest.


These starving polar bears falsely blamed on climate change have scared kids to death

These four images of thin or emaciated polar bears falsely blamed on climate change have scared kids like Greta Thunburg to death

If you see kids marching with signs you know they have seen the white lies that have been spread online.

Here I summarize the truth about all four of these starving polar bear images that have been used since 2009 to emotionally manipulate the public (especially young girls), into getting on board the climate change band wagon. Rational people have seen through the rhetoric and come to realize that climate change is virtually never the cause of starvation. However, some poor kids have been scared to death by these images and the stories of climate change catastrophe they inspired – they are very real victims of climate change messaging at its worst.


An act of cannibalism by a lean – but not starving – adult male in November 2009 near Churchill was witnessed by tourists and caught on film by professional photographer Daniel Cox. It was falsely blamed on climate change by polar bear specialist Ian Stirling. The truth is that even fat adult males will kill and eat cubs: they don’t do it just because they are desperate for food. The news media ran with the story and despite rational people trying to set the record straight, the images and false message went viral on social media. My take on it and other incidents of cannibalism here and here.


In August 2013, polar bear specialist was acting as a guide for wealthy tourists in Svalbard, Norway when he came across the carcass of an emaciated polar bear. Stirling told the media it had probably died from lack of sea ice caused by climate change when he had no evidence that this was the case. Starvation is the leading natural cause of death for all polar bears.  More on another dead starving bear sob story from 2014 here.


The hype over a photo of an apparently injured and emaciated polar bear near Svalbard was almost entirely social-media-driven. A photographer with no knowledge of polar bears took the picture and posted it on Facebook with her uninformed speculation that this was caused by climate change to get an emotional reaction from people – and it went viral. Traditional media stories followed. Norwegian polar bear specialist Magnus Andersen pointed out that the photographer’s conclusion was erroneous and reiterated my point that starvation is the leading natural cause of death for old animals. This time, Ian Stirling stated that lack of sea ice was not likely the cause of this bear’s condition but that it was probably hurt or sick.


This is the video that jumped the shark – the film of an emaciated bear on Somerset Island in the Canadian Arctic (falsely report initially as Baffin Island) used to tell the public that “this is what climate change looks like.” The video went mega-viral, apparently viewed more than 2.5 billion times. Some questions were raised about the photographer’s ethics in his quest for an image to fit his global warming message. National Geographic later apologized for the message, admitting that there was no evidence that climate change had caused the bear’s poor condition. It was the biggest of the four white lies.


Trump EPA Praised for Plan to End Use of Animal Testing in 15 Years

This will cause a lot of drug disasters if it is followed.  More likely it will just transfer a lot of the scientific work to China

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to curtail its use of animal testing, ending it within 15 years, is drawing praise from members of Congress and a broad cross-section of advocacy groups.

The Trump administration’s EPA this week set in motion an abrupt change in policy that requires the agency to seek alternative research methods.

A memo signed by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler calls for a 30 percent reduction in the agency’s requests and funding of research studies using mammals by 2025, according to a press release.

Wheeler’s memo Tuesday also calls for the elimination of all requests and funding for mammal studies by 2035.

Wheeler’s directive puts the onus on the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and the Office of Research and Development to produce “measurable impacts in the reduction of animal testing while ensuring protection of human health and the environment.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the prominent nonprofit group promoting animal rights, is among advocacy groups expressing strong support for the EPA  initiative.

“PETA is celebrating the EPA’s decision to protect animals certainly—but also humans and the environment—by switching from cruel and scientifically flawed animal tests in favor of modern, non-animal testing methods,” Amy Clippinger, director of PETA’s Regulatory Testing Department, said in a written statement.

Clippinger has a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology and genetics.

“PETA will be helping regulatory agencies and companies switch to efficient and effective, non-animal testing approaches and working toward a day when all animal tests are only found in history books,” Clippinger said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said he sees an opportunity for other federal agencies to follow suit.

“I am thrilled to hear that the EPA is greatly reducing its reliance on animal tests, and promoting non-animal-based research at universities,” Gaetz said, adding:

Animal testing is often cruel and painful, with limited applicability to human health outcomes. Non-animal research is more accurate, more cost-effective, and more humane. I commend the EPA for their decision, and hope other departments and agencies will soon follow suit.

Wheeler also said Tuesday that his agency will provide $4.25 million in grants to five universities through the agency’s Science to Achieve Results Program.

The grant money will be used “to advance the research and development of alternative test methods for evaluating the safety of chemicals that will minimize, and hopefully eliminate, the need for animal testing,” Wheeler said.

With an eye toward taxpayer protection, the White Coat Waste Project also had words of praise for Wheeler and his agency.

Anthony Bellotti, president and founder of the taxpayer watchdog group, which counts 2 million supporters, said the EPA’s action represents “the most comprehensive and aggressive plan in U.S. history to cut wasteful animal testing.”

A “supermajority” of Americans in all political parties support the goal, Bellott said.

“The Trump administration has shown outstanding leadership to curb unnecessary taxpayer-funded animal tests and this development at the EPA is another remarkable win for animals, taxpayers, industry, and the environment,” he said.


16-year-old climate acvitist Greta Thunberg joins small global warming protest of 'striking' schoolchildren outside the White House

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who is criss-crossing the globe to save it from global warming, said Friday that despite being the star attraction at a Washington, D.C. protest, she wasn't trying to communicate anything to the U.S. government.

As a few hundred 'striking' schoolchildren assembled near the White House for a march, asked Thunberg from about 10 feet away: 'Do you have a message for President Trump?'

'No,' came the reply. The young activist had the same answer to an identical question about whether she had a message for the U.S. Congress. asked the question twice to be sure Thunberg, who has the developmental disorder Asperger syndrome, heard and understood it.

The Trump administration is openly skeptical about global warming, and the president has claimed the idea of man-made climate change is a 'hoax' instigated by China 'in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.'

He has withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate accord, and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate shows no sign of acting on a Democratic House bill to reverse that move.

Trump has also mocked global warming activists and their Democratic Party allies during winter months as president, gloating on Twitter every time a cold snap hits the Northeast U.S.

He softened his position during a '60 Minutes' interview in 2018, allowing that 'Something’s changing' in the global climate, but 'it’ll change back again.'

'I don’t think it’s a hoax,' he added then, 'But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this. I don’t wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t wanna lose millions and millions of jobs.'

Friday's rally ended with a brief speech from Thunberg, who congratulated marchers for skipping school but didn't lodge any demands for America to change.

'I'm so incredibly grateful for every single one of you,' she told the group, and I'm so proud of you.' 'Never give up. We will continue,' she said.

Climate demonstrations in Europe have generated far larger turnout when the pixieish Thunberg is scheduled to appear. And unlike her quiet approach to Washington, she has leveled ultimatums there.

'For way too long the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything ... But we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer," she said during a London rally in April.

Thousands showed up in Rome to hear her speak.

She is taking a sabbatical year from school in order to be a full-time activist.

She attracted media coverage last month with a trans-Atlantic voyage on a 'zero-carbon yacht' meant to demonstrate that it was possible to travel without a carbon footprint.

It was revealed later, however, that two crew members would have to fly to New York to pilot the 60-foot yacht back to Europe. And two original crew members were expected to fly back to Europe as they rotated out.

That may have generated more carbon emissions than the boat trip saved.


Don't Be Quick to Write Off Natural Gas

Earlier this month, as temperatures topped 100 degrees and homeowners and businesses cranked up their air conditioning, Texas' grid struggled to cope with the record demand for electricity. The heat wave was compounded by a loss of power from thousands of wind turbines that couldn't function on days when not so much as a breeze was blowing. Predictably, energy costs skyrocketed in the Lone Star State.

In Houston, as peak electricity demand climbed to record levels, wholesale power prices spiked virtually overnight by an astounding 49,000% (to $9,000 per megawatt-hour). The operator of the electric grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), warned that reserve margins were so dangerously low that it might have to institute rolling blackouts. ERCOT called for the construction of more gas-powered generating plants.

Yet, a number of states, most notably California, want to push natural gas out of the picture, putting residents on a collision course with reality.

No one should think that the days of burning natural gas for electricity production are numbered, or that gas has been overtaken by solar and wind. America's vast gas reserves and the development of combined-cycle power plants, using gas and a steam turbine to generate 50% more electricity than traditional gas plants, together with advanced designs and better efficiency will keep natural gas in the energy picture for decades to come.

According to the Energy Information Administration, natural gas currently meets 28% of U.S. energy demand, while about 24% comes from coal and 11% from renewables.

Natural gas is among our cheapest energy sources. As more and more gas-fired power plants replace coal-fired plants, it is also having a significant effect on the environment, reducing power-plant emissions by 50% more since 2005 than wind and solar power combined.

The trend will continue. Two hundred and eighty coal-fired plants, more than half of the U.S. coal fleet, have either closed or announced plans to close since 2010. Time is running out for the remaining 240 coal plants. But lawmakers in several states aren't satisfied with the progress and are now campaigning to leave gas in the ground.

Take California. A new mandate even more ambitious than California's Renewables Portfolio Standard commits the state to achieving 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2045. Nine other states, including New York, Washington, New Mexico and Hawaii, have set the same target or are considering it. Natural gas might have no political future in those states.

Such measures are ominous because the nation needs more, not less, natural gas to fill the gap left by the closure of coal and obsolete nuclear power plants. The danger of not having enough baseload power has already become evident in Texas, California and New England. Serious challenges facing grid reliability have emerged, particularly in Texas, where wind energy accounts for about one-fourth of the state's generating capacity.

While wind and solar generating capacity continue to increase-hitting new records in 2018-policies mandating the phase out of natural gas ignore the limitations of these sources of energy.

Increasing reliance on renewables may sound good environmentally, but neither the sun nor the wind can provide reliable "baseload" capacity that can be dispatched, as needed, when it is abnormally hot or cold. Gas plants, on the other hand are uniquely capable of ramping up quickly and hit maximum output in a matter of minutes, keeping the lights on and air conditioners humming. Looking ahead, we'll need more natural gas, not less.

Fortunately, more than 15,000 megawatts of new combined-cycle natural gas generating capacity-enough to power as many as 4.5 million homes 24/7-is scheduled to begin operating nationally by 2020. Stopping or delaying those additions to the grid are recipes for brownouts or blackouts.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

EPA " End Use of Animal Testing in 15 Years"